View from the Foothills of France

Some personal views on living, working,
bringing up family and making the dream happen in the most beautiful region of France. View from the Foothills of France also includes some personal and professional thoughts and tips on finding and buying the perfect property in the Ariège and Haute Garonne regions.

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Moving to France for a better quality of life

The property market is very busy this year in France; or at least in this part of south west France. This is, as always,down to a variety of reasons including improvements in the French economy, low mortgage rates, incentives for first time buyers, the reduction in property taxes and the French becoming more interested in home ownership. In addition, however, there are a lot of international buyers looking for property right now, increasingly attracted by the quality of life that France offers. It seems that there is a gradual change in aspirations when it comes to property and lifestyle with buyers increasingly searching for sustainable and ecological properties and for a better quality of life.

I have written about this before but it is still the case that France always seems to head the list of countries offering the best quality of life. According to a survey by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the French spend more time eating, sleeping and shopping than any other country. Apparently the French sleep an average of 8.5 hours (yes average!) It makes France the longest sleepers out of all 34 of the OECD’s members.

The French also spend the most time eating and drinking at more than two hours per day on average which is nearly twice as long as the Americans and Canadians. Looking at obesity rates though, clearly time spent consuming doesn’t necessarily mean more consumed. Of course it is this emphasis on long, lazy lunches that brought many of us here in the first place but it is very noticeable that the French do not eat or drink excessively – a meal is probably less dense than in the UK but each element makes up a separate course to be lingered over, enjoyed and never rushed. Nor do the French tend to snack in my experience. So more food and wine isn’t crossing the lips of the French – it just feels as if it is.

It turns out that the French are big shoppers too – or perhaps just slow shoppers.  According to the report, the French spend 32 minutes each day shopping. However, I would guess that we are primarily talking about shopping for food here. Most of the French people I know shop for fresh ingredients every day and have no problem taking their time about it – it is all part of that pleasure of appreciating their food.

Unsurprisingly therefore, the report also shows that French people have the second-highest life expectancy in the OECD, presumably thanks to the high amount of time spent enjoying themselves. Add that to the 28% of GDP that the French state spends on healthcare and social welfare, the highest spending of any OECD country and it all starts to make perfect sense.

The rest of us can only look on enviously – or make that move to France and hope that some of the magic dust rubs off. Which explains the ever increasing number of foreign buyers looking for property here. If you need help with your property search, get in touch:

Property advertising – the truth behind the photos

Last year I worked on a photo shoot out here in the Pyrenees – a clothing brand so nothing to do with property; I was simply scouting locations. However it did make me realize that there are many parallels with photos for advertising fashion and photos for advertising property, namely that most of them are not real. By that, I don’t mean that they don’t exist but that they are created and curated images; much work goes on behind the scenes to present a photo that represents a covetable lifestyle to which we aspire.

With a clothing shoot, the company is trying to make us believe that, by buying their clothes we will look like that model, traversing the mountain stream without a care in the world. What the photo doesn’t show is the effort that has gone into finding the perfect location, the hours of makeup, the hairstyling, the hundreds of poses in different light to get the perfect one, the clever camera lenses, the large team of people working behind each shot and then the touching up of photos afterwards to get rid of every flaw and blemish. In other words, nobody in real-life can look like that model, not even the model. We are being sold a dream.

Which is exactly what an estate agent selling a house is trying to sell you when they advertise a property on a website, particularly a property in the south of France. So just be prepared that the gorgeous photo of a honey-coloured stone house with roses around the door and wisteria dangling over the pool may not be quite as good in reality as it looks in the photos.

If, for your property search, you don’t have time to view 100 frogs before finding your princess, get in touch and I will do the groundwork for you and make sure you know the reality behind the photos before you view:

French property for sale – what do the energy efficiency graphs represent?

When you are looking at listings for French houses for sale, you should see two graphs at the bottom of the advertisement showing the energy efficiency; one showing the consummation of energy (DPE) and the second the energy emissions of the property (the GES).

Since 2006, anyone selling a home in France has to have it tested for energy efficiency. The results are then provided to the purchaser when the compromis de vente is signed. The tests are obligatory from the first day that the property is marketed.

To get the results, an expert takes into account the size of the house, the insulation and the heating and the seller has to supply the equivalent of three years of heating bills (oil, wood, electricity, etc.) This data is then fed into software that grades the home according to its efficiency. The results are then valid for ten years.

The grades range from A to G, with A being the most energy efficient, meaning the home requires under 50kWh to heat it. Category G means the home needs more than 451 kWh to heat it. According to the Environment Ministry, 100KWh of heating costs around €11 using electricity, €4.25 using natural gas, €8 using bottled gas and €6.50 using oil.

The test results also include details on how much carbon dioxide is produced by the house. A home in category A for example produces only 6kg per m2 of CO2 a year, while homes graded as G will produce ten times that amount or more. According to a study by the Agence de l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de L’Energie , 80% of French homes are rated D, E or F, three of the four lowest categories on the energy performance chart. A-rated buildings account for less than 2% of France’s housing stock.

All homes are covered by the regulation except those that don’t have a heating system or are heated solely by open fires.

As for any property purchase, make sure you get professional advice when buying a house in France. If you need help, please get in touch:


Affordable skiing in the Pyrenees

Following on from my last post, a new study by Locasun provides an interesting look at the comparative cost of skiing in 50 of the most popular ski resorts in France. According to the survey, the average cost of a week’s skiing varies between €400 and €800 per person when the cost of accommodation, ski lift pass and the hire of ski equipment are all taken into account.

It turns out that, not only do the Pyrenees have fantastic, friendly resorts and varied skiing for all levels but they are also the best value ski resorts in France by a long way. The cheapest resorts in the study were Guzet Neige and Cauterets, both in the Pyrenees, each coming in at just under €400 each on average for one week of skiing. Another Pyrenean station, Les Angles, came in fourth lowest at €430 a week. This is compared to the most expensive resorts which were Val d’Isère (€806), Megève (€755) and Méribel (€714).

The study showed that, not only did the cost of accommodation vary substantially; between €549 (Guzet Neige) and €1,557 (Val d’Isère) but it was the same for the cost of ski passes. Similarly, the cost of ski and boot hire ranged from €49 in the Pyrénées to €128 in Val d’Isère.

The graphic below gives a list of the stations in the study and the total cost per week per person:


In the ski resorts here in the Pyrenees, we currently have the most snow and best ski conditions in Europe (or so I am told). That is in the mountains however; if you are not a ski fan, don’t let that put you off. Here in the foothills and valleys it is 15 degrees and sunny right now which means that we get to enjoy the sunshine while looking at the snow against the blue sky in the distance.

If you need help with your property search in this region, get in touch: